2007-10-23 08:24:39
Sprint to go Flat Rate for Local Calls
Sprint has announced that it will be expanding its offering of 'unlimited local and nationwide long distance calling from a home calling area for a fixed monthly price' through its Boost Mobile division under the branding 'Unlimited by Boost' Is this the start of the end of pay by the minute cell phone service?

Sprint started Unlimited by Boost (their italics, not mine) in California and Texas. Apparently it went so well that they are expanding the offering to Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Customers pay anywhere from $45 to $55 depending on location. If you are making or receiving calls outside of your home calling area, you are charged 15 cents per minute. Hmm, sound a bit familiar? The cell phone industry seems to be following the same path as the land line evolution. (Fancy that, it's the same companies!)

The drive, as the trend with most of these MVNO type setups, seems to be decidedly targeting the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Starting next week, Unlimited by Boost will be offered at 938 Wal-Mart stores in all 12 states. Also, starting Nov. 12, Boost Mobile will offer a wireless Web price plan that includes unlimited voice, unlimited text, unlimited picture messaging and unlimited Web browsing for as low as $55 per month depending on market.

I find it interesting that it could, in fact, be the cell phone industry that starts the fall of the digital divide. The concept of 'pay as you go' is very appealing in the data area. The 'always on' mentality is really predicated on the 'polling' method of checking for data. i.e. constantly. With the addition of things like 'unlimited' SMS, it's possible for a non power user to get by with less time used for data access then with dial-up. I can get an SMS ping when mail comes in, and then only pull that message (and only get charged for the data I used) The same with sending e-mail. I can write mail offline, it's only the sending that I should get nailed for. You add compression in there and things like text based e-mail start to cost next to nothing. (Sending pics of the kids still takes space, but hey, you've got 'unlimited' picture messaging, right?) Home internet access still seems to be clunky on the low end of the cost spectrum. I just recently was helping out a friend with their setup up. Not having a huge budget they are still rocking the AOL dial-up world. For the hassle, it's really not saving that much. Dial-up is now over $20 with most services. You are already taking a $30+ hit on the home phone line (which with that setup you can't use while you are online anyway). Without trying you've just found yourself in the $50+ range. When you add the fact that getting an additional line on a cell plan is usually right around $15 a month, suddenly switching (i.e. ditching the land line and going mobile) seems to make more sense fiscally.

Now the first cry oft heard at this point is safety. What about 911? The thing is, to date 911 has been more of a control issue being leveraged by the old skool telcos to keep the new kids out of the game. That's starting to lose its effect. The big thing is that most, if not all of the land line telcos have been forced to go cell anyway (some people just don't think/care about it) There are other efforts. T-Mobile is using the end point in its @Home service to tie the location to. This makes a whole hell of a lot more sense. If I'm at home (and using a cell through my UMA link) then tell people I'm at home. Otherwise use the cell I'm on. I'd expect the same to work for standing outside of Starbucks. (Heh, iPhone users can thank Apple/AT&T for not adding UMA to the offering... but hey, you can still for pay for iTunes downloads for 'free' while sipping your latte. :^P ) So as everyone goes mobile, tethering reporting to something like a phone number seems really silly.

Overall I see this move as a Good Thing(TM). I see it expanding to all of the states and others following suit. Where I a Qwest, right about now I would be seriously reevaluating my offerings. The home field advantage of running a cable to someone's door is quickly starting to look like useless overhead. It's an artificially created monopoly whose time has passed. Again, am I a huge fan of any telco? Not really, but as with someone stuck watching a football game where none of the teams mean anything to you, you usually tend to cheer for someone.

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